Dogpatch Press

Fluff Pieces Every Week

Tag: rumor

Origins of an urban legend: “litter boxes for furries” joke gets revived for moral panic

by Patch O'Furr

Update: Thanks to The Daily Beast for linking this and quoting me. – Patch

No school ever had litter boxes for students who identify as animals. So how did the rumor explode into mainstream consciousness, like bad diarrhea from a diet of concern trolling and right-wing blogs?

In January 2022, the malodorous myth rose from local news in Michigan to the New York Times: Litter Boxes for Students Who Identify as Furries? Not So, Says School Official. Furries in the Times is a rare achievement. (Check the 1996 example at bottom of this story.) That isn’t simply debunking, it also has cultural potency for a post-truth era full of flat-earthism and Qanon cults.

I can’t count how many headlines there were about one incident. One is just absurd, but it keeps happening. That shows cynical calculation by Otherphobes. They’re demonizing minorities by proxy, with a target behind the target. It’s a cousin to transphobic memes like “I sexually identify as an attack helicopter” using weirdos to make it easier to swallow. But before we digest that, let’s go to the splatter zone and trace the patterns.

At Dogpatch Press, I’m obsessive about tracking media mentions and memes, and we also do debunking — like for a misinterpreted “nazi furries” photo — and I’d been asked to trace the old litter box myth before. So I dug deeper than the mainstream news. Furry News has the real shit.

The oldest mainstream source I found is in this 2008 photo from Anthrocon in Pittsburgh. He’s a broadcaster who likes furries, although it’s complicated.

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A false rumor about RMFC is repeating history from the Burned Furs.

by Patch O'Furr

Remember Rainfurrest? Bad behavior was blamed for the con’s demise. In 2015, vandalism caused a fatal economic issue between the con and its hotel. Popular attention focused on fetish activity, but the public didn’t care about it and the media was incredibly positive. That debate stayed between furries, but it was at least based on partial truth (the real reason was economic, not bad PR.) That’s different from dishonesty you can see below. It connects the long-dead 2000-era Burned Furs and the end of ConFurence, with falsehoods that exploit the closing of Rocky Mountain Fur Con. It shows an agenda to divide fandom. (You may ask: why is this still happening in 2017?)

ConFurence, the first fur con, drew criticism about bad behavior. Organizers were blamed for advertising in gay lifestyle magazines to increase attendance, supposedly attracting fetishists who had nothing to do with furry fandom. Then in 2015, a fur dug up the actual 1997 “ad” that people were citing without seeing it.  It wasn’t an ad, and it didn’t come from furries.  The obscure ‘zine publication happened at a time when it couldn’t have influenced anyone. The rumor was a false smear.

The rumor is almost 20 years old now, but it still exists:

“we still hear stories about the early ConFurence when the organizers allowed some BDSM people in to improve attendance, with horrible results” Ask Papabear, 4/12/17 (graciously modified after discussion.)

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